Auckland, February 25, 1993
There ia a continuing phenomenon of Australian politics
-- the influence of the Jewish community, which extends far beyond its size of power to decide even marginal seats. The community's
ability to sway the most powerful politicians in the land confounds political observers such as Dr Clive Bean, of the Australian
National University Research School of Social Sciences, and Mr Malcolm Mackerras, one of Australia's most prominent political
"I must admit, I'm very puzzled by it," said Mr Mackerras.
is no doubt the influence is real, despite the fact that the Jewish community numbers less than 100,000, concentrated in Sydney
and Melbourne, and with no deciding balance in any electorate.
ZEALAND HERALD - "...money is influential. Also the Jews' influence is a worldwide phenomenon and to some extent its
international presence may make Australian parties feel that is is a group that cannot be ignored..."
Leibler - billionaire President of the Zionist Federation of Australia
To put this into perspective, Australia has a migrant population
of more than three million, but ethnic communities extend into generations of Australian-born descendants of original settlers.
For example, according to the Bureau of Statistics, there were
about 260,000 Italian-born migrants living in Australia in 1986, but more than 580,000 people who considered themselves part
of the Italian community.
And while politicians and lobbyists talk glibly of the ethnic
vote, the creature remains largely mythical.
Said Dr Bean: "The ethnic vote probably does exist, but beyond
that we don't know a lot about it, or how it operates. Statistically, it's too small."
At best, analysts suggest that where ethnic groups appear to
vote as something of a bloc the vote is more likely to be determined by problems common to migrant groups -- such as unemployment
and access to social services -- rather than membership of any community.
For these reasons Mr Mackerras suspects that, such as it is,
the ethnic vote will favour Labour.
Yet a relatively small group, with no direct electoral clout,
can command attention about which other communities can only dream.
The Jewish lobby, spearheaded by the Zionist Federation of Australia,
is constantly courted by Prime Ministers and Opposition leaders, is able to sway both domestic and foreign policy where it
touches its interests, and last year even forced a senior minister to recant publicly.
Labour lost Jewish support in the 1970s when the former Prime
Minister, Mr Gough Whitlam, implied that Australia had not condemned the Arabs' Yom Kippur attack on Israel for fear of alienating
It returned with Mr Hawke's rise to power, and his unwavering
advocacy of Israel.
Zionist federation conferences are routinely addressed by the
leaders of both major parties, both of whom equally routinely pledge Australian loyalty to the Jewish and Israeli cause.
The leader of the Opposition, Dr Hawson, is "proud to be a friend
of Israel," and promises "unshakeable support." The Prime Minister, Mr Keating, lauds the Jews' "civilising influence" on
Australia, Israel as a "great cause," and Jews as "great settlers, great Australians."
And when the Foreign Minister, Senator Evans, last year criticised
Israel's Palestinian policies and human rights record, he was hauled over the coals.
Speaking to the students, Senator Evans at least gave an answer
as to why the Jewish community enjoyed such extraordinary rapport with the Government. There was, he said, a "bonding experience"
of shared democratic ideals nurtured by school day friendships with the children of Holocaust survivors.
Dr Bean is not so sure.
"My speculation would be that
it has money," he said, "and money is influential. Also the Jews' influence is a worldwide phenomenon and to some extent its
international presence may make Australian parties feel that it is a group that cannot be ignored."